Ethical Issues in Thank You for Smoking

Thank you for smoking [Motion picture]. (2006). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The 2006 comedy/drama motion picture, Thank You for Smoking, features several ethical issues found within both everyday life and the marketing communications field. The film, directed by Jason Reitman, follows the life of Nick Naylor, a public relations professional working for big tobacco companies. Throughout the film, Naylor attempts to defend the tobacco industry and cigarettes as they come under scrutiny due to their alleged health related issues. Additionally, he spends his time out of the public eye attempting to raise his son. After Naylor is kidnapped and nearly killed, he changes his stance on the tobacco industry and the laws regarding cigarettes.

In regards to the ethical issues present within the film, the concepts of transparency and harm are clearly evident. Time and time again, we as the audience observe Naylor spinning the truth about cigarettes and the tobacco industry so as to frame them in a more positive light. In doing so, he withholds various pieces of important and relevant information from the public so as not to alter their perception of cigarettes and their parent tobacco companies in a negative light. For instance, at one point in the film, Naylor goes into his son’s classroom for the school’s “bring a parent in day.” During his time speaking with the children, Naylor lacks transparency as he consistently leaves out how cigarettes are bad for you. At one point, Naylor is even asked by a student if cigarettes are good for people and Naylor answers not with a yes or no but by relating to the kids in a manner that would make them try smoking.

The concept of harm is even more profound throughout the movie. However, some instances are more prominent than others. For example, a clear display of harm can be observed in the harm being done to society and the general consumer. Through Naylor and the big tobacco corporation’s transparency, consumers are not allowed to make an appropriately informed decision about purchasing cigarettes. A less clear example of harm can be seen in the harm being done to Nick Naylor’s son, Joey Naylor. Due to his father’s general dislike from the public and Nick’s antics at Joey’s “bring a parent in day,” Joey is painted in the same light as his father and therefore has his social interests set back because of it.

Blog Post #3: Is Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” for Real?  

As we have learned in class, transparency is defined as “behavior as conduct that presumes openness in communication and serves a reasonable expectation of forthright exchange when parties have a legitimate stake in the possible outcomes of effects of the sending or receiving of the message. It is an attitude of proactive moral engagement that manifests an express concern for the persons-as-ends principle when a degree of deception or omission can reasonably be said to risk thwarting the receiver’s due dignity or the ability to exercise reason” (Plaisance, 2014), or in simpler terms, to be transparent you are open and bearing no secrets.

Dove is known to be one of the most favored and cherished brands there is, for they speak perfectly to each and every one of their target markets. In the past decade, their Campaign for Real Beauty movement has gone viral numerous times on several different social networking sites. Their commercials, advertisements, and promotional speaking all are known to cheer women up about their bodies, saying that all women are beautiful—no matter their shape, size, race, age, etc. They have also been highly praised in not Photoshopping their ads or their models as compared to other companies and brands that are claimed to do so.

Personally, I have always liked Dove’s outlook and Real Beauty campaign only because it’s something different and refreshing from typical beauty products’ messages. After reading the case in point in our textbook about the Campaign for Real Beauty not being real, it’s unclear what Dove was trying to do in their advertising efforts. When questioned, they denied the fact that the pictures were altered sticking to their duty of, “Dove’s mission is to make more women feel beautiful every day by widening the definition of beauty and inspiring them to take great care of themselves. Dove strives to portray women by accurately depicting their shape, size, skin color and age…’let’s be perfectly clear — Pascal does all kinds of work – but he is primarily a printer – and only does retouching when asked to. The idea for Dove was very clear at the beginning. There was to be NO retouching and there was not,” confirmed Annie Leibovitz, commenting on the ProAge campaign” (Bercovici, 2008).

It’s unclear what the true story is behind the controversy, but I have to say if Dove really did alter their photos, I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world. Yes, they preach the idea of real beauty and how women’s views of beauty are all distorted and meanwhile they are seen to be distorting their women too. I think what’s worse in this case is Dove lying about it if it’s true. If they did alter their photos, all they have to do is own up to it, and not be seen fraudulent in the topic of transparency.


Bercovici, J. (2008). Dove: we didn’t airbrush our lumpy ladies. UpStart Business            Journal. Retrieved from              airbrush-our-lumpy-ladies.html?page=all

Plaisance, P. (2009). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (pp. 84-86). Los Angeles: SAGE.

Blog#3 Case in Point “Best Buy Hunts Down Bad Customers”

For my Case in Point I chose to do, “Best Buy Hunts Down Bad Customers”. This Case in Point talks about how Best Buy found out that they had three different kinds of shoppers. They categorized them as the ” “angles” the high spending people, “devils” – savvy, bargain-hunting customers who apply for rebates, return purchases to buy them back as discounted merchandise, and “flippers” the people who buy goods for a profit on eBay. The CEO says “100 million of its 500 million annual customers fall into this category”. Best Buy found out this information from a data mining system that is collected from the products that customers buy and when they buy them. After receiving information that “devils” were hurting their revenue Best Buy took away the online promotions and coupons that would be seen by the “devil” customers. By doing this they were basically trying to lessen the use of coupons and increase their revenue. In this example, data mining helps the companies stay in business and helps them keep making profit. McWilliams stated, “They can wreak enormous economics havoc” talking about devils but with data mining this helps companies weed out the devils. Data Mining might help companies but not always the case for customers. For example, one of the points we talked about in class that had to do with data mining was how Target found out this teen was pregnant from the products the teen was looking up online and products she had purchased. Through data mining Target started to mail her information and product that pregnant people would need. The father having no idea his daughter was pregnant was not very happy with Target because they were sending her information he thought was inappropriate. The father ended up finding out later that his daughter was pregnant and realized why Target was sending his daughter that information.

I think that data mining has its pros and cons. I think for companies it is smart of them to have to keep track of customers like Best Buy did. Help them find out what kind of buyers they have to keep their company going strong. Where for customers it is nice when you have been looking for a certain products and you get information about what other product would be good to purchase. On the other hand, some cons would be in the case of the pregnant teen where she wanted to keep the information to herself but Target gave out information she didn’t want others to see. Also for those customers that are bargain shoppers, they are being discriminated against. Is it ethically fair to not put certain ads on certain consumer’s web browsers just so they will spend more money in stores? The problem is that it could go well for the store or bad. By not giving the consumer available promotions it will be taking away a customer. Or possibly it could work out in their favor by making that customer by the tool for full price.

Personally, I believe it is ethically wrong that Best Buy used data mining in that sort of way. I think it is interesting how through data mining they were able to learn more about their customers. However, ethically it seems that the company is trying to deceive those customers who may not have the means to purchase something without coupons or cheaper rates. It is not fair or just to discriminate against a customer based on the type of shopper they are.

Case in Point: Crowdsourced News Tests Limits in Boston Bombings

Explosion at Boston marathon

With the Internet such an integral part of all of our lives, many ethical issues arise because of how unrestricted and virtually limitless the Internet is. One of these issues is citizen journalism. Citizen journalism can be a great thing, and can be reputable and well reported. But, it can also be extremely dangerous and cause issues when citizens, who think they know what they’re doing, “report” on things before they know all of the facts. People naturally want to be the first ones to know everything, and sometimes post things before finding out if it’s actually true. And the thing about the Internet is that once you post something, an unlimited amount of people can see it. It’s also never really gone even if you delete it.

Part of being a journalist is making sure that your sources are credible, and that you have the facts straight before you report on something. If you don’t, it can severely hurt your reputation and your credibility. “Citizen journalists,” or people Tweeting about events they witness don’t typically worry about this, and just post things as soon as they hear them. But, this can cause a snowball effect of misinformation and cause people to panic and react to things that aren’t even true. This can cause a huge problem in a crisis or during a big event. It can confuse police and security officials and cause major problems.

This is exactly what happened during the Boston Bombings, as described in the Case in Point in the “Harm” chapter. Bystanders and people in Boston were Tweeting things about the suspects and other details of the bombings that weren’t actually true. News stations even reported on things that people Tweeted that later ended up being disproved. This made the news stations look bad and lose some credibility. In the chaos, the stations seemed to be more interested in getting the newest story the fastest, instead of making sure their facts were straight.

Overall, citizen journalism can be extremely positive, and can help get the word out about important events in nontraditional ways. It’s quicker than traditional journalism, and typically has less of the biases that network news often has. But, it really can go wrong when people don’t think, or don’t know what they’re doing. One Tweet from a random person can get blown out of proportion, or misinterpreted, and before you know it it’s a huge mess.

Case in Point: Product Placement Makes Shows Real, but Is It Ethical?

“Product placement is so common now that we all know it occurs routinely” (Plaisance, 2014, pg. 87). This quote came directly from the Case in Point. When watching TV or movies it is inevitable that there will be some form of brand within the production. It is hard for productions to go unfunded by these products or get some form of benefit from them. It is hard to believe viewers are going to see a Papa Ginos’ pizza and automatically purchase a pizza from there. Product placement adds an authenticity to the production; it is unlikely that a movie that recently came out doesn’t have an Apple product from their watches, televisions, most common phones and laptops. All of these products can be seen in some form of production but it doesn’t make you the viewer want to purchase them. The way in which I see product placement being an issue is in children films or shows. I recall wanting anything and everything that my favorite characters in shows wanted. This generation of children could be exposed to certain brands within their shows and want the same products.

In Talladega Nights starring Will Farrell, there is a scene where they are eating dinner and everything at the table is product placement. They have brands such as Coca-Cola, Wonder bread, KFC, and others. Wonder bread was the biggest brand in the movie because that was the lead sponsor for Ricky Bobby’s race car. According to Thomaselli (2006) of Advertising Age, there wasn’t any form of money exchange between Sony and Wonder bread. The movie did bring about 4.3 million dollars in exposure. For fans of race car driving, the sponsors of the cars add authenticity, if they didn’t have these brands it wouldn’t feel as a legitimate racing movie. With the sponsorship of Bobby’s car it added to the film and it wasn’t necessarily publicity stunt. Also according to Thomaselli (2006), Wonder Bread was apparently bankrupt, so there was no way of them paying to be a part of this movie.

There are a few negatives about product placement, one is it becomes disruptive. In a USA network show, White Collar, they all have HP computers. Every time there is an office scene in one of the corners you can see the HP lighting up on the computers or laptops. It isn’t a massive zoom in to the logo, but as viewers it is noticeable. Same exact concept when it comes to their cars. During an episode they got a new ford car and they were using all of the gadgets and gizmos within the car. They also showed an accident in the car and the man survived but the fact it showed the durability and safety of the car was quite obvious. If viewers didn’t look that closely to the car brand, it would have never mattered. After studying product placement it becomes obvious when you see consistent logos in the background or forefront of shows.

Aside from it being disruptive, it could take away from the show. I noticed on White Collar when the wanted to point out aspects of the car, they would somewhat lose the seriousness of the scene. It became obvious that it was all to bring awareness to the accessories the car possessed. It didn’t all around ruin the episode or anything, but that split moment of promotion took a little away. Another negative which was mentioned in the book was the in the movie Flight. Denzel Washington’s character was an alcoholic pilot and his drink of choice was Budweiser.  This example of product placement could have a negative impact on Budweiser making it seem as if their product contains too much alcohol or causing alcoholism.

The fear of product placement is the artistic element of the film will be misconstrued as an ad campaign of some sort. When people go to movies they want to see it because of the actors, plot, or overall excitement for the movie. No one is taking away from what the actors, directors, and producers do. It is their work of art and that can’t be taken away because of some product placement in the background. It isn’t unethical or unruly towards the creators or cast of the show. It is a concept that has been added to the show for the betterment of authenticity. In my perspective it adds a form of reality to the production instead of drinking a drink unlabeled or using an unmarked product. It takes away from the movie when that happens; it looks as if it is missing something. Product placement could go either way ethically or unethically. I believe it has become part of television and movies in the 21st century.

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Thomaselli, R. (2006). Movie Gives Wonder Bread Exposure Worth $4.3 Million. Retrieved from

Case in Point: Is Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” For Real?

Everything can be distinguished psychologically and perceived in different ways, especially in art. As a photographer, I have my own opinion to this matter, but can also view the sides of others. The Point Case study in the book Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice, called “Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ for Real?” illiterate an issue in 2004 when Dove focused on the visual components of a “real” women model called “Campaign for Real Beauty.” The parent company of Dove, Unilever, proclaimed how the commercial media of Dove is not viewing the “real” women appropriately to what they actually look like. Not only did Unilever focus on Dove, but its agency as well, Oglivy and Mather, creating a controversy between photography and common people. The revealing of what the behind the scenes process of the photo shopping was for each model shocked people who are inexperienced in this field. Check out this video to see:

Stepping back from the moment, evaluating the history of what beauty is cause a difference between times. Make-up designing, body shapes, hairstyles alter per generation. In the 1400s to 1600s, curvaceous women were seen as sexy. This was one of the main moments in history that women as seen as a beautiful figure with their natural body. The Renaissance community considered women with lighter hair to be more appealing. It continues in to the late 1800s, but then alters into a more self-conscious body type with thinner waists and larger breasts. Of course this differs between countries, cultures, and ages. A feminist named Naomi Wold explains about the myth of beauty says, “Beauty is a currency system like the gold standard. Like any economy, it is determined by politics, and in the modern age in the West it is the last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact.” (Integral Life). Humans’ sense of beauty is all in the mind.

Photographers, editors, graphic designers, and the viewers have a freedom to voice their own opinion. However, there must be a care on how we show the ideas. Immanuel Kant defines freedom in the book Media Ethics, “Freedom is not just another word…it defines us as a moral agent and thereby comes with a serious duty or obligation” (page 85). The creators of that image had the right to edit the photograph and subject to whatever extent. It is considered art. Unilever interviews Pascal Dangin, the photographer of the main Dove campaign, replying to the question about what he thinks of the editing, “But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive” (page 85). However, as much as artists have the freedom to edit a photo, there must be a clear obligation how the image is processed and not natural.

As human nature, we are attractive to symmetry. This can illiterate to objects as well as people. This includes similar noses within a community, eyes that are even, symmetrically designed jaw structures, etc. We all have an obligation to show that everyone is beautiful in their own individual way. As Kant explains about the dignity of human nature that forces people to get out of their comfort zone, “His articulation of the concept of transparency, through his theory of human dignity, challenges us with a question: Do we have the moral courage to do more than “talk the talk” about how we value truth and integrity, all the while exploiting people and situations when it’s convenient or sever our interests?” (page 84). There are people that “need” editing, but it is not our place to proclaim to them the issue. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Work Cited:

Bennett, C. (2013, March 8). No glow: Dove’s ‘Beautify’ reverts pics to raw state. Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

Dabitch. (2008, May 9). Surprise! Dove “campaign for real beauty” was retouched. Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

Fisher, V., & Wilber, K. (2009, February 11). Beauty and Feminism. Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

Plaisance, P. (2009). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (pp. 84-86). Los Angeles: SAGE.

Richter, A. (n.d.). You Probably Wouldn’t Have Been Pretty By Ancient Standards.      Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

The Evolution video – Dove Self Esteem Project. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2015, from

Case In Point

One of the most interesting “Case In Point” segments I found while reading is the one about Food Lion grocery stores. ABC used hidden cameras to get the inside story of a local Food Lion. The store was selling out of date products and forcing their employees to work off the clock. ABC wanted to get the full story and had their people get hired there. In the end, Food Lion took ABC to court after their sales decline 4.6 billion dollars. Their whole issues ignited the debate of the right use of hidden cameras used my journalist. This “Case In Point” dealt mainly with transparency.

For me I am happy that ABC covered the story, I think that as consumers we have the right to know the EXACT and proper date a grocery store’s food is being packaged. The consumer trusts the grocery store enough to buy their food, the least they can do is be transparent about when it was actually made. One report from The New York Times, quoted Diane Sawyer saying “We want to make it clear that ‘Prime Time’ staged nothing. What you saw on hidden camera is exactly what happened.” In my personal opinion, the public needs to know regardless, this is a serious matter of Food Lion not properly labeling their foods and could of lead to someone becoming very ill. The way I see it is if they are mislabeling dates what else could they of mislabeled, for example ingredients. What if someone had a deathly allergy? I would not trust Food Lion if I went in there today, and this case happened years ago. Their reputation was tarnished over this incident, and without ABC how would the public of ever known? I do not think it is just my opinion, recently I was in the South, where Food Lion typically is, and the person I was visiting drove extra distance to another grocery story because she said that Food Lion was “dirty.” Right before this I remember reading this “Case in Point” and wondering if they two connected in any way, even after all these years.


Company News: Food Lion Stock Falls After Report. Nov. 7, 1992. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Ethical Issues of Privacy in Edtv

Howard, R. (Director). (1999). Edtv [Motion picture]. United States of America: Imagine    Entertainment

edtv_poster Edtv is a film that focuses mainly on the issue of privacy in the entertainment industry. The story centers around Ed Pekurny, who was a nobody in his society up until he agrees to have his life recorded and broadcasted to the entire country on a television show called Edtv. Throughout his short-lived television fame, he comes across many ethical issues regarding the privacy of himself and the people around him (Edtv, 1999). This film is a great example of the struggle that reality television stars face when it comes to privacy.

Ed’s issues with privacy begin in the very beginning of his filming, when his drunken brother accidentally spills family secrets about his sister and her boyfriend on the air. Unlike the reality television shows that we are familiar with, the Edtv footage is not edited and everything is shown in real time, so this mistake could not have been taken back (Edtv, 1999). The problems continue as Ed still is not used to the fact that he is living with the camera crew. He shows up at his brother’s apartment to find that his brother is cheating on his girlfriend. This situation is also aired on live television, which creates problems in the relationship between Ed and his brother (Edtv, 1999).

008d50d4 Because Ed had signed a contract to be the star of the television show, his basic right of privacy was taken away from him. The only time that he gets the privilege of privacy is late at night for a couple of hours before he wakes up again in the morning. From the moment he wakes up until he falls asleep everything that he does as well as everything that the people around him do is broadcasted to the nation. This unfortunately, and naturally, creates a strain on his close relationships between his family, his friends, and his girlfriend. It is unnatural to have your life displayed to the public 24/7, and although the personal aspects of Ed’s life were entertaining for a while, the audience soon understood the struggle that he had been put through and were supportive when he decided that this life was too much (Edtv, 1999).

Edtv is different from reality shows that we know because his content was not edited. However, we get to see some sort of truth in the story when we see that the directors and producers begin to dabble in Ed’s life by setting him up in situations without his knowledge just to gain ratings (Edtv, 1999). This is similar to the reality television that we know, where stars are often told what to say or what to do to enhance the story line. Edtv is definitely a dramatic version of what we see on television every day, but it does make the audience think about the rights of privacy that these stars are being deprived of.

How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying: Ethical Analysis

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying [Motion picture]. (1967). USA: Mirisch Corporation.

how to succeed in business

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was directed by David Smith and is based on the 1961 musical that is in turn based on the book by Sheperd Mead. The film is based in 1967 corporate America. J. Pierpont Finch is a window washer who buys the book How To Succeed in Business, and by doing so begins to climb the corporate ladder. The tactics in the book are questionable at best but help him rise to chairman of the board. The core ethical dilemma posed by the film is person gain at the expense of others. The book directs J. Pierpont Finch to lie, steal, and pass blame in order to get ahead of his colleagues. Finch, with the help of this ethically questionable book rises from a window washer to vice president of advertising.

Finch uses many unethical tactics in order to rise through the company. In one part he learns that the president of the company is making advances toward a new employee, Finch quickly uses this information to move up in the corporation. The president’s nephew also tries to use this information to his advantage, however in the end Finch beats him to the job of chairman of the board. Using the secrets of others for personal gain is obviously not something to do in personal or professional life.


Finch uses many more of the unethical advice form the book in order to move up in the company. One of the first things he does is talk his way into working in the mailroom, then from there gains the level of executive. This is unethical because Finch stole the job of someone who was more qualified than him. The company was unethical in this situation as well because they were not just in their promotions. Finch is able to move up faster than anyone else, which is not fair to the other employees of the company. Once Finch gains the position of executive he manipulates more employees to get to the top, including the CEO. Finch fakes his hours and pretends to have been working late into the night when he had not. He fakes pulling all nighters in order to look better. Lying is obviously unethical, especially when doing it for personal gain over someone. Finch can also be seen spying on his colleagues throughout the film, which is an obvious unethical invasion of their privacy.

Media Ethics: The Truman Show

the-truman-show-wallpaper-3There are many ethical issues throughout the movie The Truman Show. In regards to media ethics, some of the major issues include private versus public people, transparency and autonomy, and advertising. Truman, who was chosen through an online birth competition, was adopted by the television show and had been followed by people around the world since he was a baby. Through this scenario, Truman was not given the choice to live a public life; he doesn’t even know he is a public figure, prohibiting him to private protections through media law. This also leads to the issue of transparency and autonomy, preventing Truman to be in control of himself and what is being shown on television, as well as the lack of information that he is given, making him believe he is living a normal life. Finally, the not-so-subtle advertising that is thrown in throughout the show is not very transparent to the audience, acting as product placement.

In the opening of the movie, Truman’s wife, who is actually an actress, said, “There is no difference between a private and public life. My life is The Truman Show” (Niccol & Weir). This is representative of Truman’s life as well. This is an ethical issue because Truman was never given the chance to have a private life. This can be similar to the royal baby or a child born to celebrities, however the difference is that these children have autonomy and transparency. They know that they are in the public spotlight; therefore they are able to change the way they act and control the information that they provide to the public. Truman on the other hand does not know that he is on television for everyone to see; he believes he is living a private life. These are important factors to have in a real-life situation, and are the reason something like The Truman Show would never happen in real life.

A less-significant ethical issue in comparison to Truman’s public life without transparency or autonomy is the fake advertising through the movie. The Truman Show actors and actresses used product placement throughout the movie that was very subtle, resulting in little transparency and autonomy for the audience watching. Although the products were not really being advertised to viewers such as myself, they are a good example of the way ads can be presented in films. Some examples of the product placements include the wife’s chef pal from the grocery store, when Marlin and Truman were hanging out on the bridge and Marlin promoted the beer, and the Mococoa that Meryl the wife tried to promote, resulting in Truman exclaiming, “What that hell are you doing? Who are you talking to?” This was followed up with a title screen across the television that said, “Truman drinks Mococoa…” (Niccol & Weir). With the advertisements attempt to blend in with the show, the audience may not realize it is an ad, prohibiting the autonomy of their opinion towards the product, as well as a lack of transparency that what they just saw was an advertisement. Although this happens all of the time in movies with sponsored product placement, it is still an ethical issue that advertisers and film producers must consider.

Niccol, A. (Producer), & Weir, P. (Director). (1998). The Truman Show [Motion Picture].       USA: Universal Studios.